The gene encoding the B subunit of heat-labile enterotoxin (etxB) was mutated at its 3' end by targeted addition of random nucleotide sequences. Gene products from five mutated etxB genes, all of which were shown to encode B subunits with short carboxy-terminal amino acid extensions, were analyzed with respect to a range of functional and structural properties. One class of altered B subunits, exemplified by EtxB124 and EtxB138, which both have seven extra amino acid residues, were found to be specifically defective in their ability to stably associate with A subunits and form holotoxin. Other altered B subunits were less subtlely affected by extensions at their C termini and were, in addition to their failure to associate with A subunits, unable to translocate into the periplasm of Escherichia coli, to pentamerize, or to bind to GM1 ganglioside. This suggests that the carboxy-terminal domain of EtxB mediates A subunit-B subunit interaction
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